- Chantel Jennings, ESPN Staff Writer
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Today we continue to look at each of the Big Ten’s bowl opponents. Let's check out Michigan’s saucy Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl competitor, Kansas State.
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
Tempe, Ariz., December 28, 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
Michigan (7-5) vs. Kansas State (7-5)
Coach: Bill Snyder (23rd season)
Record: 7-5, 5-4 Big 12
Combined opponents’ record: 81-61
Common opponents: none
Leading passer: Jake Waters, 138-233 (59.2) for 2,198 yards with 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Leading rusher: John Hubert, 182 carries for 968 yards (5.3 yards per carry) and nine touchdowns.
Leading receiver: Tyler Lockett, 71 receptions for 1,146 yards (16.1 yards per catch) and eight touchdowns.
What to know: The Wildcats employ a two-quarterback system similar to what Northwestern did this season with Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian. Waters is the passer of the two quarterbacks (averaging 183 passing yards per game) and Daniel Sams is the more run-first player (38 passing yards and 65 rushing yards per game). “I've never been a fan of having two guys at that position that play equally,” Snyder said. “But both of them work diligently at it. Both of them are very deserving of having the opportunity to play. … Even though that's not my preference, that's the way it's played out. So consequently that's the way we'll do it. Both of them will play.” Greg Mattison said earlier this week that this kind of attack and system gives the Wildcats “a very potent attack.” And considering how much the Wolverines struggled with the run against Ohio State, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Kansas State use even more of Sams.
From a broader perspective, the Wildcats started the season 2-4 before closing out the year winning five of their last six games and enter the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl with a ton of momentum. The Wolverines, on the other hand, come in losing five of their last seven. It'll be interesting to see how a team on the upswing plays against a team with a huge chip on its shoulders.
Key matchup: Mueller vs. the Michigan O-line. The Wolverines put a much more complete offensive line performance together against Ohio State, but Devin Gardner was still sacked three times. With Mueller’s ability to get to opposing quarterbacks and three full weeks to find the weaknesses and inconsistencies in Michigan’s offensive line, he’ll be hungry. Even with time off to heal his body, Gardner -- who’s already missing practices this week due to turf toe -- could be closer to being sidelined than anyone realizes. If that’s the case, the Wolverines would be working with a true freshman quarterback on a bowl stage, which Michigan really wants to avoid.
1dJosh Moyer and Dan Murphy